Opioid Commission Calls for Drug Courts, Reimbursement Changes to Combat Crisis

The presidential opioid commission today released its final report on ways to combat opioid overdoses and drug addiction across the United States. Noting that 175 people currently die of drug overdoses in the U.S. every day, the commission urged immediate federal action to change the nation’s opioid trajectory, making 56 specific recommendations to both the White House and Congress. Here are some of report’s key recommendations:

  • Create drug courts in all 93 federal judicial districts. The commission stated that drug courts are effective at increasing participation in addiction treatment and reducing recidivism of drug-related crimes. The commission also recommended that individuals with substance use disorder who violate probation terms be diverted to a drug court as opposed to prison.
  • Require that patients sign forms declaring informed consent to use opioids. Commission members and industry experts believe this change will help to decrease casual prescribing.
  • Increase the number of federal block grants to state governments, which would circumvent the red tape that sometimes fragments federal resources and can help move money directly to effective state treatment programs.
  • Change the reimbursement rates set by federal addiction treatment providers. Current policies sometimes create physician disincentives for physical therapy and other non-drug treatments that are initially more expensive than a prescription.
  • Lower barriers to substance use disorder treatment, including those that impose limits on access to the medication-assisted treatment methods already approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The commission also recommends increasing access to recovery coaches.
  • Change the guidelines on who may administer naloxone, a medicine that can reverse an opioid overdose, and allow higher doses. Several states currently prohibit some emergency responders from administering naloxone.
  • Eliminate patient pain evaluations from patient satisfaction surveys to remove provider incentives to prescribe opioids in order to increase patient approval ratings.
  • Implement a national multi-platform media campaign addressing the stigma of addiction and the danger of opioids (similar to the HIV/AIDS campaign of the 1980s and 1990s).